Czech Roma asylum seekers who have been rejected political asylum abroad should not be entitled to social benefits after they return to the Czech Republic, the Government Council for Roma Affairs decided on Thursday. The council also agreed that a special police body should be established in order to deal with the widespread problem of illegal money-lending among the Czech Roma community. The number of Romanies seeking asylum in Great Britain has grown dramatically in the last few months. According to the government's human rights commissioner, Jan Jarab, excessive debt is among the reasons why Czech Roma are leaving the country.
The Environment Minister of Upper Austria, Ursula Haubner of the far-right Freedom Party, has said she wants to start talks with the Czech Republic on the phasing out of the controversial Temelin nuclear power station which is situated close to the Austrian border. Ms Haubner suggested on Thursday that the cabinet should invite the new Czech Environment Minister, Libor Ambrozek, for negotiations in Upper Austria. The topic of their talks should be renewable sources of energy and the eventual closing down of Temelin. Mr Ambrozek said on Wednesday he wanted the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant to be the country's last and that he would ask the Czech government to adopt an energy policy that includes the complete phasing-out of nuclear power. Ms Haubner's party has welcomed Mr Ambrozek's statements saying that anti-Temelin activists had been given fresh hope in their battle to have the plant shut down.
The new Czech minister for the environment has said he wants the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant to be the country's last. Environment Minister Libor Ambrozek said in a newspaper interview published on Wednesday that he would ask the government to adopt an energy policy that includes the complete phasing-out of nuclear power. Mr Ambrozek said he wanted to focus on renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric and wind power. However the minister said Temelin would remain operational, despite protests from anti-nuclear groups in neighbouring Austria and Bavaria, who claim the plant is unsafe. The Czech Republic has two nuclear power stations, Temelin, launched last year, and Dukovany which has been operating since 1985.
The final wording of the government's programme for the next four years will not be ready until Monday, just one day before it is submitted to the lower house of parliament for approval. A member of the government's press department said the cabinet had not approved the programme at its meeting on Wednesday, explaining that the document still had to be completed. The new centre-left government enjoys a majority of just one seat in the lower house.
A senior member of Austria's far-right Freedom Party reacted quickly to Mr Ambrozek's comments, saying anti-Temelin activists had been given fresh hope in their battle to have the plant shut down. Hans Achatz, head of the party's parliamentary club in the upper house, described Mr Ambrozek's remarks as a "huge step in the right direction."
The Czech Republic could start using the currency the euro by 2010, Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Tuesday. Mr Sobotka said introducing the euro was a priority of the recently-formed government, adding that it was a realistic ambition. To meet the Masstricht criteria necessary to adopt the euro, the public deficit must not exceed three percent of gross domestic product. The Finance Ministry expects the public deficit to be down to 5.5 percent of GDP four years from now. The Czech Republic hopes to join the European Union in 2004.
A third of Czechs are happy with the June general election results, according to a public poll conducted by the Centre for Public Opinion Research. Whilst most of the satisfied citizens were over the age of sixty years, most of the 25% who claimed to be dissatisfied were people with a high education and higher income.
After 30 members of the Czech Roma minority on their way to Great Britain were turned back by German officials on Friday, another group has decided to try its luck. With the first group failing to have the necessary cash and insurance, some 20 Roma left the Moravian city of Ostrava on Monday, armed with money, return tickets and insurance. A large number of Roma in Ostrava have been leaving the Czech Republic, saying that they are being discriminated against, find it hard to get employed, and do not feel safe. Officials at the border areas have therefore been weary about Roma travellers, fearing that their main aim is to apply for asylum at the countries of destination. As far as those who have been turned back are concerned, social workers have expressed fear that many will have to borrow large amounts of money in order to make up for the lost travel expenses.
President Havel has flown to his summer house in Portugal, where he will continue to recuperate from a recent worsening of his chronic bronchitis. Breathing difficulties forced Mr Havel to cut short a visit to France, and he was released after a week in hospital on Tuesday. The 65-year-old president, who is a former chain smoker, has been hospitalised 16 times since taking office. Mr Havel's term as president ends next February.
The deputy mayor of Prague, Jiri Paroubek, has said that he expects serious disturbances on the streets of the capital during the NATO summit in November. Speaking on a Sunday television discussion programme, Mr Paroubek said he thought the clashes would be at least as serious as those which took place during the annual session of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in September 2000. The leaders of NATO's 19 member states are due to attend the Prague conference, at which the alliance is expected to welcome new members.
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